When Jesus ascended into heaven he left behind a small group of followers to carry on his work. What was so remarkable about these early disciples that they managed to spread his Gospel to the ends of the earth? Can their experience help us today as we seek to share our faith with others?
Missing the Opportunities
Has it ever happened to you? You meet someone unexpectedly and after the conversation you realize that if you had just said the right words to start the conversation, it would have been a golden opportunity to evangelise. I was thinking that this probably happens to everyone but then I realised that if this had happened to the small group of disciples that Jesus left behind when he ascended to his Father then we would not have the world-wide Church that we have today. Something must have been different. I began to wonder if their experiences could teach us anything today so I went to the Holy Bible to see what it could tell me.
They Heard Jesus Calling Them
Jesus began his ministry by preaching the Gospel of repentance, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:15). He then expanded his ministry by calling Peter and Andrew, ordinary fisherman, to be his first disciples. Immediately they left their nets and followed him (Mark 1:16-20). Jesus’ ministry grew and soon he had many disciples. From these he appointed the twelve apostles and he sent them out preaching and gave them the authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-19; Mark 6:7-13). After this Jesus appointed seventy others, and sent them ahead of him, in pairs, to go to every town and place where he himself was about to go (Luke 10:1-3). Jesus calls us today to follow him and when we do this he will equip us with all that we need to do his work and he will send us out to tell the whole world about his love.
Jesus Promises a Helper
From the beginning Jesus mentioned many times the promised helper, the counsellor that he would send (John 16:7-13). He promised them the Holy Spirit, who would guide them to all truth and give them the power to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas even to the ends of the earth (Act 1:4-8). There were about a hundred and twenty of his followers eagerly waiting for the Gift of the Holy Spirit as they continued to pray with Mary, the Mother of our Lord (Acts 1:15). The Holy Spirit was not just for the early disciples but also for us today. We receive him through our Baptism and Confirmation and he gives us the gifts and courage that we need to spread the Gospel.
The Boldness to Proclaim
On the day of Pentecost when they were all gathered in prayer, the Holy Spirit came upon them from heaven as tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4). This is how the early Church received the boldness to proclaim the Good News. On that day three thousand people were converted and baptised in the name of the Heavenly Father and the Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-41; 47). The Holy Spirit will give us the courage and the words to use when we don’t know what to say. He is always there for us in the good times and when life is difficult. He came in answer to the disciples’ prayers and he will come to us when we ask for his help.
The Church Grew Despite Persecution
The early Church continued to grow as one family in Christ as the disciples prayed together with Our Lady (Acts 1:14). They held steadfastly to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to communal prayer (Acts 2:42). When Stephen, a bold disciple of Jesus, was arrested and stoned to death in Jerusalem, the other disciples fled to other towns carrying their faith with them (Acts 8:1-4). It was a very difficult time for the believers; they went through much suffering, sacrifice, and opposition from the rulers but they persisted in their prayer and in their loving service to each another and by their example and preaching the Church continued to grow. It is by our example and witness that the Church will grow today. When we pray and work together with our fellow Christians to help the poor and those on the margins of society we will bear witness to our faith. If we are open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit he will show us the opportunities to evangelise and enable us to bring others to faith.
The Holy Spirit Will Speak Through You
The key then seems to be The Holy Spirit. It is he who gave the early Church the courage to speak out and proclaim the Good News. Let us pray that the next time we have the opportunity to evangelise we will call on the Holy Spirit and he will use us boldly to witness to our faith so that the Church can continue to grow in this age.
Written by Jitto David